How to Find Vital Records: Techniques for Efficiently Locating Documents

Vital Records Search
Learn how and where to find vital records and important legal documents.

What are vital records?

Before you embark on a vital records search, it is essential to understand the term’s meaning. Vital records are the official documentation of significant life events that include:

Birth certificates and related records – Most commonly known as birth certificates, these documents record the official location (i.e., the state, city/town) where the birth occurred. Typically, they include the date and time of birth, names of the birth parents, the name of the doctor who delivered the baby, and other critical information.

Marriage certificates and related records – These documents include marriage licenses and applications. For instance, civil unions and domestic partnerships documentation is also included.

Divorce records – These docs include records of the dissolution of marriages and paperwork for filing legal separations.

Death certificates – The death certificate includes the decedent’s name, date and place of death, cause of death, surviving spouse or relatives, parents, and informant information, place of disposition and funeral facility information, and residence history. Other information may include whether an autopsy was performed and by whom.

Where to Find Vital Records

Vital records are usually managed under governmental authority at the federal, state, county, or city levels. In most states, the Office of Vital Statistics manages the documents. A county clerk or county recorder typically maintains these court documents in the United States under state law.

Fortunately, many states offer online access to some of the data, but in some cases, private detectives must visit the county clerk’s office in person. They may even need to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents are not always public records, and access to them may not be available in some states. The records do not include police reports, arrest data, property ownership, military service history, inmate and prison history, or other police and law enforcement reports.

To get access to billions of online public records, see BeenVerified.

What do private investigators need to know?

Private investigators are experts at uncovering important client documents and public records. Private eyes often dig up court documents and vital records about a person’s birth, death, marriage, or divorce. For example:

  • An individual may be trying to track down their birth parents. Parents’ names are on a person’s birth certificate. However, many people don’t know how to get a copy. That’s where a private investigator comes in to do a vital record search on their behalf.
  • Another example is someone who recently entered a relationship and wants to investigate the background of their new partner. They can hire a private investigator to check for official records that confirm their identity by checking birth records. In addition, they can check into their past relationships by checking marriage and divorce records.
  • In cases of missing persons, searching for a death certificate is an excellent idea to see if the missing person is still alive.
  • When private eyes perform a comprehensive background check, they research and compile the data to form a complete picture of an individual.

Online Access to Vital Records Search via Research Websites

As previously mentioned, many states, counties, cities, towns, etc., provide online access to public records. We recommend starting with the state website and looking for the Office of Vital Statistics or the county clerk.

In addition, some companies serve as aggregators and provide access to the public and vital records search documents for all states via one site. Of course, access will cost you. Costs typically range from a flat fee for broad access to a per-item charge. Following are some aggregators to choose from:


BeenVerified has a vast database consisting of billions of online public records.


Also, try an Intelius People Search for people search reports, background checks, criminal records, court records, real estate, and financial reports.

National Center for Health Statistics

National Center for Health Statistics – The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website contains information for private investigators and legal researchers. On this site, you’ll find state-by-state information on obtaining or requesting court docs and other information. The appropriate address, approximate cost and guidelines, and tips for submitting your request are provided for each type of documentation. This is an excellent site that we highly recommend for detectives and regular citizens.


TruthFinder is an online public records research service that searches billions of records and compiles reports. For example, it searches data sources such as federal, state, and county records. Plus, it scours social media data and the deep web. Use it to search for people, relatives, and related persons quickly. Also, find information such as vital records, criminal history, employment credentials, etc. Feel free to read our review, but we do not recommend using Truthfinder. BeenVerified is a much better service.

VitalChek Network by Lexis Nexis

VitalChek Network – VitalChek, owned by LexisNexis, is an official, government-authorized service that helps citizens securely order certified birth certificates and other public records from official government agencies nationwide. It offers a simple ordering process designed to help ensure the accuracy of your order. Just submit your order online, which is routed electronically to the appropriate government agency for processing. Processing fees range from $2.50 to $16.00.

U.S. Vital Records – This website will help you find your ancestors in the United States. Use the site to search federal census records, obituary records, and old newspapers. The results lead you to However, we don’t recommend this particular search unless you do genealogy research.

View our legal forms page for descriptions of legal documents related to this type of research. Related documents include divorce or separation forms, pre-marital agreements (prenups), last will and testament forms, and other miscellaneous documents.

Please comment below if you have any questions about conducting a vital records search.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. My husband has been leading a secret life. He is believed to be married to another woman and me at the same time. They went to Louisiana to marry. Since then she has begun taking my identity so they can hide their marriage. Documents in the data base on his and my property has been wiped clean no record. They are making me feel like I’m crazy. Can’t find any real proof anywhere. My husband was very careful in covering his tracks. I have wasted 3 months on this and need proof. Don’t know what to do.

  2. I am desperately trying to get my divorce record in Illinois from over 40 years ago. I don’t have the exact dates. Everywhere I search I can’t get past the date(s) issue. What can I do ?

  3. Hi, my name is Diego Young. My parents got married in NY in 1965 and both are dead. How can I get a Marriage certificate? Their names were: Diego Young Cash & Ana Laura Faget Montero

  4. I do astrology charts. I would like to complete a chart for Joe Lando, the actor, who was born on 12/9/1961 in Illinois (either in Chicago or Prairie View, where he grew up). However, I need his TIME of birth. I’ve been informed that the only way to obtain his birth time is from his LONG birth certificate.

    The problem is that not all states allow access to birth certificate information. (I live in California, where birth times are public information.) Would your company be able to access this information?


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